Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today, after four days of debate on a bipartisan resolution expressing support for our troops and disapproving of the President's escalation plan in Iraq. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
'My colleagues, for four days and three nights, more than 350 Members of Congress have come to the floor to speak their conscience about the war in Iraq, and the President's escalation proposal. I commend my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for the tenor, for the most part, and the substance of their remarks.
'There is one proposition on which we can all agree: our troops have performed excellently in Iraq. They have done everything asked of them. And as the resolution states, 'Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq.'
'We owe our troops a debt of gratitude, for their patriotism, for their courage, and for the sacrifices they are willing to make. As a sign of our respect for them, particularly those who have lost their lives in the war, and for their families, I request that we observe a moment of silence.
'We owe our troops a course of action in Iraq that is worthy of their sacrifice. Today, we set the stage for a New Direction on Iraq by passing a resolution with fewer than 100 words, which supports our troops and disapproves of the President's escalation proposal.
'Democrats have proposed a different course of action to the President. Over and over again, we have suggested a different plan. One year ago, Senator Harry Reid and I stood with House and Senate Democrats to propose our agenda for Real Security - to project our power and our values to protect the American people.
'Consistent with our Real Security agenda, Democrats have sent the President four letters, starting in July and the most recent one at the end of January, urging him to adopt a strategy for success containing these elements: change of mission; redeployment of troops; building a political consensus; engaging in diplomacy; reform of reconstruction; and a refocus on the war on terror.
'In terms of changing the mission, U.S. forces in Iraq must be transitioned from combat to training of Iraqi forces, real counter terrorism activities, and force protection and logistics. A shift in mission will allow the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to be reduced, diminishing their presence in the daily lives of Iraqis, and minimizing the chances of these troops being caught in the cross-fire between rival Iraqi factions.
'Ending the emphasis on a combat mission will allow the phased redeployment of our forces from Iraq beginning within the next four to six months. Declining troop levels will require fewer bases and none of them will need to be permanent, consistent with legislation introduced and passed by this by House by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and also introduced by Congressman David Price. A smaller military presence in Iraq will also relieve some of the strain on our troops, their families, and our military equipment.
'Success in Iraq requires more than military force. And that really is what this debate is about today. As three-star General Peter Chiarelli, until recently the Commander of the Multinational Corps Iraq, observed in December, and I quote, 'We need to get out of thinking that this is solely a military conflict where we must simply apply more U.S. or coalition or Iraqi forces against an enemy that we can destroy. All our nation's strengths -- diplomatic, economic, political -- must be leveraged to help the Iraqis find their way through this process.'
'Unfortunately there has been no sustained and effective effort to engage Iraqi's neighbors diplomatically.
'Iraq's neighbors have the greatest stake in Iraq's stability and the role it will play in the region. Leaders of those countries are best able to help Iraqi leaders improve security by reducing ethnic tensions. To this end, an international contact group should be established to support a political settlement in Iraq and preserve Iraq's sovereignty.
'Senator Reid and I also wrote to the President that an international conference should be convened to broaden support for the reconstruction effort that is essential if Iraqis are going to be put to work building their country's future.
'And on the subject of reconstruction, there has been little effective reconstruction in Iraq because of mismanagement and disappearances of funds. That is why we propose, that for in order for the reconstruction of Iraq to attract international support, it must be conducted according to practices which are honest, transparent, and accountable. Reconstruction must be guided by the kind of process set forth in legislation introduced by Congressman Patrick Murphy and the Blue Dog Coalition. The United States should take the lead on accountability in reconstruction.
'Politically there has been no sustained and effective effort to engage rival Iraqi factions. The U.S. must insist that Iraqi leaders make the political compromises needed for broad-based and sustainable political settlement that will produce an inclusive political system in Iraq. A good beginning would be to press Iraqi leaders to amend the constitution to achieve a fair sharing of power and resources. That was promised at the time of the referendum over one year ago. The resulting political consensus will allow Iraqi security forces to challenge the militias on behalf of the nation and to disarm them.
'Proponents of the President's escalation are equating the war on terror to the war in Iraq. As our esteemed Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri, great patriot, has observed, 'Two conflicts. Two wars. And the two should not be confused. There are those who attempt to fuzz the two conflicts together as 'the war on terror,' but the wars are truly separate and distinct.'
'The war in Iraq continues to detract from our ability to fight the war against international terrorism effectively. We need to finish the job started more than five years ago in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and address other conditions around the world in which the appeal of terrorism breeds.
'The longer it takes us to resolve the situation in Iraq, the longer resources and attention will continue to be diverted from the war on terrorism. Our ability to respond to the escalating conflict in Afghanistan and other potential crises in the world is constrained severely by the deterioration in military readiness to levels not seen since the Vietnam era.
'We have the six elements that we talked about: change of mission, redeployment of troops, building of political consensus, engaging in diplomacy, reform of reconstruction, and a refocus on the war on terror.
'By placing so much emphasis on dealing with the problems in Iraq militarily and not enough emphasis on sustained political and diplomatic engagement, the President's escalation plan repeats past mistakes.
'The stakes in Iraq are too high to recycle proposals that have little prospect for success.
'The bipartisan resolution today may be nonbinding, but it will send a strong message to the President: We here in Congress are committed to protecting and supporting our troops.
'The passage of this legislation will signal a change in direction in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home safely and soon.
'Our troops are working together to secure our nation, and we in this House must work together to secure our nation as well and to do so in a way that honors their sacrifice.
'I urge my colleagues to support our troops and a New Direction in Iraq by voting aye on the bipartisan Skelton, Lantos, Jones resolution.
'Thank you, Madam Speaker.'